The Best Caribbean Islands For Shopping
The Best Caribbean Islands For Shopping
You might not be a black-belt shopper like me but I bet you buy at least onesouvenir when you visit the Caribbean. So make it count! Whether you’re looking for rum or a piece of art, a T-shirt or a handmade trinket, here are my recommendations for where to drop some serious dollars in the Caribbean (including a non-island, too).
On my first visit to the USVI last spring I was pleasantly surprised at the wealth of shopportunities in St. Croix, particularly on the capital’s Company Street. Start your retail safari at Sonya’s for the classic Crucian hook bracelet; cross the road and climb the stairs to Asha for boho-chic resort wear and jewelry; then walk a few storefronts up to IB Designs, where they sell their own take on hook bracelets and other silver jewelry (plus super-cool IB T-shirts). A few streets over on Strand Street, Crucian Gold is a go-to for custom jewelry made with chaney (pieces of pottery left over from the Danish era) as well as their signature Crucian knot bracelet. In Frederiksted, don’t miss the King Street apothecary Itiba, where Yoki Hanley sells her handmade line of all-natural lotions, soaps, oils and body butters.
Every visit home to Jamaica turns into a shopping expedition for me. In Mo’Bay, a stop at the Gallery of West Indian Art is a must for their carved wooden “spotties” and colorful Caribbean oils and watercolors. Nearby Schatzie sells a collection of men’s and women’s linen and cotton resort wear that’s versatile, simple and stylish. I never leave Kingston without a look-see at Bridget’s, where they’ve been making handcrafted fashion-forward leather sandals for more than 30 years. And in Negril, I always swing by the boutique at Rock House for cool T-island-themed shirts and colorful clutch bags from Treasure Beach design house Callalloo.
This USVI is often hailed as the shopping capital of the Caribbean, and with so many duty-free stores lining the main drag in Charlotte Amalie, you can understand why. But I usually wander down the alleys that lead off Main Street, exploring arcades with evocative names such as Raadets Gade, Palm Passage and Hibiscus Alley, where you’ll find chic boutiques and artisan’s outlets. Another favorite: Norre Gade’s Zora of St Thomas, where Zora (and now her daughter and son-in-law) have been crafting leather men’s and women’s sandals since the ‘60s. Customized in the color of your choice (with orthotic inserts, if you need them), they’re not cheap at upward of $200 a pair. But you’ll probably wear out before they do.4.
Where do I pay out my pesos in the Mexican Caribbean? Temptation abounds in Cancun’s Hotel Zone, where I’ve yet to make it out of the Kulkulcan Plaza or Las Isla shopping malls without a purchase. Further south in Playa Del Carmen, I love to browse Fifth Avenue’s boutiques, particularly the Jellyfish store for calabash lamps and designer Silvia Suarez for colorful sundresses. And in Tulum, I shop Mixik’s two outlets (one in the pueblo, the other on the beach strip) for local art and craft.
It’s amazing how many shopportunities you can fit into just 36 square-miles! I shop my way around AXA at Irie Life (cool T-shirts); Petals (resort wear that’s refreshingly reasonably priced); Limin’ boutique (love the clutches featuring photos of iconic beaches); and ZaZaa (where I’ve been lusting after a spectacular – and astronomically priced – beaded necklace for three years now!) The boutiques at Viceroy, Cuisinart and Cap Juluca are well stocked with designer swimwear, clothing and accessories, most of which are beyond mere mortals’ budget. But if you visit at the end of the high season, when the big spenders have gone back to their palatial homes, you can score some hugedeals (we’re talking up to 80 percent off, here, people!) as stores get rid of their leftover inventory.
For most people, a trip to San Juan involves dining and partying. For me, it’s all about the purchases. I bypass the Caribbean’s largest mall, Plaza Las Americas, and make a beeline for the district of Old San Juan where three of my favorites line the narrow cobblestoned streets: On Calle San Francisco, I score limited-edition fabric totes and vintage jewelry from Concalma. On Fortaleza, I always stop in at Olé (even though I already have one of their fabulous Panama hats, custom-fitted to my huge head). And my new obsession is Marisel Herbal, which sells artisanal soaps and body products handmade with ingredients such as Puerto Rican honey.
You don’t have to be a shopaholic to be impressed by the residential, retail, restaurant and recreational village of Camana Bay, near Seven Mile Beach. But it helps. You can get your shop on at selection of slick stores including Florida-based retailers Island Company and Books & Books, but I love to shop the Wednesday farmer’s market for homemade baked goods and local crafts. There’s also art and craft galore at Pure Art gallery in South Sound, where a 100-year-old cottage is packed to the rafters with Caymanian and Caribbean art, craft, and jewelry made with the local semi-precious stone, Caymanite.